The birthday celebration was well into the midst of things, all the guests arrived, and standing with drinks in their hands. Music played loudly, a popular band of musicians invited from a town located two kingdoms away. So infectious was the happy music they played, that many couples were already dancing, the women’s gowns flaring outwards to twirl about their bodies as they were spun about the floor.
A long row of banquets tables were pressed against two walls, a veritable feast laid out that might even give the gathered Drule’s stomachs cause to pause. Colorful banners hung from the ceiling, spelling out Allura’s name and age, congratulating her on her birthday. Confetti littered the floor, the colorful bits of paper had been released upon Lotor and Allura’s entrance to the ball room. Balloons had also been released, and they floated up to the ceiling, hovering in place with their curled strings dangling downwards.
It was an all around festive feel to the party, everyone enjoying themselves. They celebrated not just Allura’s birthday, but the victory Arus had had over Doom. The Arusians were very relieved to have retained their freedom, and except for some impolite staring on the part of some, the nobles for the most part welcomed the Drules who attended the party.
It was a nice mix of humans and Drules, the men and women under Lotor’s command dressed in their formal uniforms, the generals and other high position officers proudly showing off their medals. Some of the guards had been replaced with Drule soldiers, Allura wanting to send a message that showed how much she trusted her husband’s people.
Already the Drules and humans had mingled, the males flirting shamelessly with the Arusian females. There was even one or two males who eyed the two Drule females who were at the party, though none had gotten the courage to approach the women yet. Allura wondered if after a few more drinks, Duke Wellington would gain the courage needed to attempt to dance with one of the pretty Drule ladies.
In one corner, to the left of the platform the musicians performed on was the pile of presents that had been brought for Allura. Some of the gifts looked to be quite large in size, though Allura knew that the smaller packages might outdo them in the sheer amount of wealth and generosity displayed by their giver. It was almost embarrassing to think on how the nobles would try to curry favor with her by spending outlandish amounts of money on gifts.
It wasn’t just with the gifts that they tried to score points with Allura, each person taking time to seek out an audience with Allura. She had exchanged more pleasantries than she could remember, and it was only on the dance floor, in her husband’s arms, that she got a moment to herself. None of the men dared to approach and beg a dance from her, not with Lotor standing guard over his wife. It was one reason to be grateful for the intimidating qualities of the Drule, and Lotor’s possessive instincts.
Lotor was not familiar with the Arusian’s type of dancing, but he mimicked the movements that he saw the men do. Mostly he stood there, swaying with Allura in his arms, or twirling her in circles around him. She liked it better when he held her, Allura feeling safe in his arms, and enjoying the chance for a private conversation. Right now, she couldn’t quite keep the worry off her face, even as she tried to enjoy the party. But it was difficult, nearly two hours had passed since she had left her cousin alone with Sabbath and her uncle.
“You don’t think they’re killing each other, do you?” Allura asked, anxious and fearing the worse. Lotor tried to be reassuring, though his choice in words left much to be desired.
“Of course not.” He said, holding her close as he swayed to the drummer’s beat. “We’d have heard Romelle’s shrieks by now if that was the case.”
“I doubt we could hear much of anything over this music…” Allura grumbled, and Lotor smiled.
“Drules have excellent hearing my love.” He spun them both in a circle, Allura’s gown flaring out. “Relax…I’m sure they’re just talking. Besides, Sabbath wouldn’t hurt the King. He loves your cousin too much to cause her distress in that manner.”
“But…if he holds back, won’t that leave an opening for the King to hurt him?” fretted Allura, watching as Lotor shook his head no.
“I said he’d hold back, not that he’d disable himself completely to fall victim to an attack. He’ll neither harm nor be harmed if a fight breaks out.”
“I hope so…” Allura murmured, and Lotor hugged her close.
“I know what I’m saying. Sabbath is first and foremost a Drule warrior. And that means he understand the intricacies of fighting, be it large scale battles, or one man fights. He’ll easily be able to turn a bad situation good, should the old King try anything violent.”
“He’s not THAT old you know.” Allura said. “He’s only about five years older than the age my father would have been. Plus he keeps himself in good shape…for a man his age that is.”
“Old or not, I doubt he’d be a match for a Drule.” Lotor retorted with a laugh. That laugh sent nice shivers down her spine, sounding as though it promised wicked delights. She saw several women turn Lotor’s way, appraising looks in their eyes, which made Allura’s possessiveness flare. This time it was she that hugged Lotor, and though her face remained smiling, her message of possession was clear, the women looking away.
“You haven’t met my cousin Avok yet, have you?” Allura asked this though she already knew the answer. “His opinion is very different from yours.”
“Yes. Both he and the King both seem to think a Drule would not be able to win in a fair fight against one of Avok’s strength.” Allura explained, remembering how eager Avok had seemed to fight a Drule.
“Ha! I’ll give him points for boldness, but not much else.” Lotor said, smirking. “Fair or not, a Drule would easily trounce a human. We’re simply outmatched on the scale of strength.”
“What about skill?” Allura asked, spinning around in Lotor’s arms. “Does skill count for anything against a Drule?”
“Oh yes, there is that to consider.” Agreed Lotor. “But really Allura….in a fight of fists or sword, strength and stamina rule. I’d wager a lot of money that your cousin Avok would tire out long before any Drule he fought against would.” He chuckled then. “Can’t stab a winning blow if you’re arm is too tired to lift the sword!”
“I think Avok would still try.” Allura mused with a sigh. “He stubbornly believes he’s the superior fighter, no matter who his opponent is.”
“That’s an attitude that’s bound to get him hurt…” Lotor noted, the song drifting into it’s final notes. “Are you perhaps worried he’ll challenge Sabbath?”
“A little, yes…” Allura admitted, as the dancers broke out into applause, thanking the musicians for their wonderful songs. “Sabbath has enough to worry about dealing with Romelle’s father. He doesn’t need an arrogant, over protective brother thrown into the mix.”
“Hmm.” Lotor was thoughtful, holding her in place on the dance floor as a new song sounded. She could see people waiting impatiently on the sidelines, the men and women eager to talk to their ruler, but Allura was in no rush to approach them. “Which one is he again?”
She turned to find Avok, spying him standing near one of the banquet tables. He was trying to chat up a girl in red, and it was when the woman turned to flash more than the profile of her face, that Allura realized it was Kyrie. “He’s over there.” Allura said, doing a subtle nod in Avok’s direction.
Lotor looked and chuckled. “I doubt he will have much luck with that one. Heh. Your friends are very much enamored of my soldiers, especially that Gloria.”
Allura tried not to giggle, and failed, wondering how Avok’s ego would take it to know a Drule held more fascination for Kyrie than a prince did. “Come, I’ll introduce you.” Allura said, and stepped out of Lotor’s embrace. But she didn’t let go of his arm, walking across the floor towards the banquet tables. Several people tried to make eye contact with her, hoping to gain her attention, but she pretended not to notice. She knew they wouldn’t dare approach her once she was engaged with talk to another person, though they would grumble and huff angrily about waiting their turn.
“Avok.” Allura said, a smile lighting up her features. Kyrie glanced her way, and looked relieved for the interruption from the prince’s flirtation. “Kyrie.” She nodded at the girl, then was presenting Lotor for Avok’s inspection. “You two haven’t been introduced. This is…”
“Prince Lotor, yes I figured as much.” Avok interrupted her, giving Lotor the once over with his gaze. He didn’t look overly impressed, and Allura thought his interruption down right rude.
Lotor seemed intent on not noticing, the Drule thrusting out his hand to Avok. The prince eyed Lotor’s hand for a moment, distrust evident in his eyes. Then he was reaching forward, grasping hold of Lotor’s hand, a competitive look in his eyes. Allura couldn’t have known in that moment that a challenge had been issued, one Lotor was more than willing to accept.
The two princes smiled at each other, and continued to grip each other’s hands. Lotor’s face showed no sign of strain, his smile pleasant as he held onto Avok’s hand. Avok’s arm tensed up, and his smile began to falter, a tense look of concentration showing in his eyes. They continued to hold hands for several more moments, nearly a minute passing before Avok let out a colorful curse, and jerked back his hand. It was then Allura realized they had been testing the strength of each other’s grip, Avok’s hand nearly being crushed by Lotor’s.
“Damn but you have a strong grip!” Avok exclaimed, wincing as he shook out his hand in an attempt to get the feeling back into it. “Are all Drule like you?”
“Oh no.” Lotor’s answer seemed to relive Avok. It was relief that lasted only a second, as Lotor said without batting an eye. “The full breeds are much stronger.”
“Stronger?” Avok looked shocked to hear that, and Allura nearly giggled at the expression on his face.
“Yes.” Continued Lotor, a bland smile on his face. “It’s the human blood in we half breeds that weaken us so.”
That angered Avok, the prince taking a step towards Lotor before he thought better of it. “Now see here….!” The prince growled, forming fists in his hands. “Are you implying humans are weak?”
“Oh my, is that what I said?” Lotor appeared to be purposefully goading her cousin, and Allura wondered the reason behind his instant dislike of Avok.
“Yes, I believe you did.” Avok hissed, and Lotor smirked, flashing his fangs in the process.
“I meant no insult. I’m just stating what is fact for us Drule. Any children Allura and I have will merely possesse a third of a full blooded Drule’s strength. They’ll still be Drule enough to beat a human, fair fight or not.”
Avok was trying not to scowl, eyes narrowed as he glanced between Allura and her husband. “Did you tell him what I said in the receiving room?”
“I might have made mention of your interest in fighting a Drule.” Allura admitted, wondering why she felt sheepish in the moment. “But I only said it because I was concerned about you.”
“More likely you were concerned about my sister’s Drule lover.” Spat Avok, and then he glared at Lotor. “Is Sabbath a half breed like you?”
“He is.” Answered Lotor. “He’s a vetran survivor of several wars….not easy pickings for an inexperienced boy.”
“Inexperienced boy?!” sputtered Avok, growing angrier. “I’ll have you know I’ve trained with the best soldiers my kingdom has to offer.”
“But have you ever really fought a man who wasn’t being paid to teach you?” inquired Lotor. “Have you ever fought in an actual war? I have, and so has Sabbath. We’ve made it a habit of trouncing spoiled royals who think they know how to fight…”
“Lotor, that’s enough.” Allura said, watching as her cousin’s face turned red. “Avok, calm down. Lotor means well, really. He’s just trying to warn you off a fight where you might get hurt.” She flashed a stern look at her husband. “Although his methods could have been a little less…insulting.”
“Hmph.” Avok grumbled then. “So far my opinion of Drules in general have not been favorable. I really don’t know how the people of this castle can think so highly of our new allies.”
“Well that’s the key word.” Kyrie spoke up, a drink in her hand. “They’re our allies, and really, aside from helping us fight back the invading forces of King Zarkon, they’ve proven to be great friends. Loyal and helpful. They’ve been working on the castle repairs, something they did not have to do. And they’re even teaching our soldiers how to fight, and revealing Drule military secrets. And for a race that has such a fiercesome reputation, the Drules I’ve met have really been quite nice to me and the other girls.”
“My lady, you are too kind.” Praised Lotor, his voice purring out his approval. She blushed at that, and quickly busied herself with her drink.
“Just telling the truth, is all.”
“So…” Avok’s lips had pursed together, giving him the look as though he had tasted something sour. “If you’re all so kind and nice, why have your people conquered so many?”
“It was the will of our King.” Lotor quickly replied. “I can assure you, that when we over throw that despotic father of mine, the galaxy will be safe from Drule threat once more.”
“I’ll believe that when it happens.” Scoffed Avok.
“Some people aren’t content to believe unless the truth is right there before them.” Lotor retorted, Allura turning to glance around the room.
“Where is your brother?” She asked. “Where is Bandor? I haven’t seen him since your arrival earlier.”
“Oh he’s around here somewhere.” Avok gave an airy shrug of his shoulders. “I believe the Duchess of Fergusigh’s daughter is here. She’s about the age of Bandor, and you know how children like to hang around those people that are close to their age.”
“It was my understanding that Bandor was nearly a man.” Lotor frowned. “Is he not about fourteen years of age?”
“Still a child as far we humans are concerned.” Avok eyed him coldly. “I bet you Drule are already killing at that age.”
“Something like that.” Lotor agreed, hardly put off by the implied insult.
“It doesn’t bother you?” Avok asked, looking at Allura. “That your children may be expected to follow in the Drule way?”
“Children are still a long way off in our future.” Allura replied. “Although we will be raising them with the best of both worlds. It might prove challenging, but I think it’s worthwhile to let our sons or daughters know of both of their heritage’s.”
“Hmmph. Sounds like a lot of…” Avok’s words were lost to the sound of a trumpet playing, a servant heralding the arrival of three latecomers to the party. Allura’s group was already turning, spying Romelle walking into the ball room, holding Sabbath’s hand, and gripping her father’s arm. Allura smiled, relief in her eyes, as she witnessed the three’s entrance. Neither man was bloody nor bruised, and though the King’s smile was strained, he no longer looked so hostile.
“What in blazes is going on?!” She heard Avok demand from behind her.
“It seems your father has made peace with his daughter’s situation.” Answered Lotor, his voice sounding pleased.
“That is a relief.” Commented Kyrie. “I know the princess was ever so worried about how her father would handle her being mated.”
“I don’t believe it.” Avok was saying. “He can’t be accepting of this…it has to be a trick!”
“Sometimes there’s nothing more to a situation than what you see.” Allura told him. She took Lotor’s arm, already tugging him across the floor, intent on meeting up with Romelle and her two escorts. Allura knew she was smiling, and Romelle grinned back at her, giving the slightest of nods that hinted that everything would be okay.
“Uncle.” Allura drew Lotor forward, suddenly feeling nervous. She knew her nerves could not compare to the feelings Romelle must have had in introducing Sabbath to her father. “This is my husband, Lotor.”
“It is an honor to meet you.” Lotor said, and inclined his head in a bow.
“Likewise, I’m sure.” The King mimicked Lotor’s bow, the two royals paying the proper amount of respect to each other.
“We were just talking with Avok.” Allura was saying to Romelle. “It was…an interesting conversation.”
“It’s the day for interesting conversations.” Noted Sabbath, face masked in seriousness. “But I’ve come away from them hopeful for the future.”
“We all have.” Added Romelle, and she risked a smile at her father who was talking to Lotor.
“Do you think Allura’s parents would have approved of me?” He was asking the King, who paused to think about it.
“I can’t say I know my brother’s mind, but after all you’ve done for his daughter and the planet, I think he’d be well on his way to liking you.” Lotor smiled at that, as though relieved to hear those words.
“Romelle! Allura!” Bandor’s voice, the boy drawing closer, a girl his age following on his heels. Both teens drew to a halt a few feet away, seeming intimidated at the sight of the two Drules.
“Bandor…” Romelle smiled at her younger brother, inviting him closer. He shook his head, his eyes wide as he took turns staring at Lotor and Sabbath. “Come meet Sabbath.”
“Are you the Drule whose going to take my sister away?” The boy asked, and Romelle blushed.
“Bandor! Where did you hear such a thing?!”
“From Avok.” He promptly replied, and the prince was walking their way, drink in hand.
“Well, he’s wrong…Sabbath isn’t going to take me away from you, or anyone in our family.” Romelle answered, and Sabbath let go of her hand to approach Bandor.
“Hello there, your highness.” He said, and gave a proper bow. Bandor looked surprised at that, staring up at the Drule. “I am honored to meet you.” He held out his hand, which Bandor nervously took. The boy couldn’t even wrap his fingers around the whole hand, and he let out a loud exclamation.
“Everything about you is so big! I bet you could kill a man with hands like these!” Nervous laughter followed Bandor’s words, the boy looking confused to hear it. “Have you ever killed anyone?”
“I have.” Admitted Sabbath. “I’ve had to fight for my world, under my King’s orders. Sometimes it involved nasty business, and people had to die.”
“Cool!” exclaimed Bandor, grinning. “Do you have one of those swords that glow? I think they’re wicked awesome!”
Avok didn’t look pleased at how interested Bandor seemed in Sabbath, the man scowling from behind the young prince. Sabbath met his gaze, and gave another bow, having guessed who Avok was due to his resemblance to the King. “Prince Avok. It is a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand, but Avok ignored it, staring at him.
“I’m surprised your in one piece.” He said, then glanced at his father who looked embarrassed. “I thought for sure father would put you in your place, or at least drive you off from Romelle’s side. What happened? Did you two make peace?”
“Not quite.” Muttered the King. “We are working with a common ground.”
“And that is?” demanded Avok, and Sabbath answered.
“Your sister’s happiness.”
“Hmph!” Avok seemed jealous at that, and Allura could guess why. It must hurt to think he was being forced to marry a woman he did not even like, when his sister could be given a chance to marry for love. She wondered what would happen to Avok, if he would insist on being allowed a chance to marry for love upon seeing his father cease fighting Romelle’s decision to be with Sabbath.
“It’s very important to me.” Continued Sabbath, then glanced at the King. “To both of us. We want Romelle to be happy, loved, safe and take care of.”
“And you think you can do all that?” challenged Avok, and Sabbath nodded.
“I believe I can.”
Avok opened his mouth to retort, but it was lost before being uttered, a servant bursting into the room. Her eyes were wild, her face flushed as she lunged in the direction of Allura’s family. “Princess Allura! Prince Lotor…it’s terrible…”
“Shh…what is it?” Allura asked, trying to get the woman to calm down and lower her voice. But the maid was too upset, too panicked to realize what Allura was trying to do, practically shouting out her words for the whole party to hear.
“It’s the Drules!” She said, and Lotor grew even more alert.
“What about the Drules?!”
“There is a whole fleet of them hovering in Arusian airspace!” All around them gasps and cries were heard, people already starting to panic. Allura glanced at Lotor, and saw his troubled frown, the prince surely not knowing where these Drules had come from. To the left of them, General Pardust was hurrying towards her family, intent on discussing the situation with Lotor. Allura herself didn’t know what to make of this, and she could only pray that it didn’t mean Zarkon had come to attack Arus once more.